Did you know that Sardinia, among its many nicknames, is often called “Island of the Giants”? This original name comes from the fact that several historical ruins and relics on the island are undoubtedly oversized; moreover, several legends mention big, tall people who used to live in Sardinia at the beginning of time.
The traces of these so-called giants are visible throughout the island and its ancient history. One of the most famous examples of this Giants’ culture is the Giants’ Tombs, monumental burial sites dating to the pre-nuragic era.
Other important but lesser known relics are the Mont’e Prama Giants, huge statues of warriors that were found about fifty years ago and have shaken Sardinian archeologists’ theories to the core.
There are also legends about huge skeletons being found in the countryside – skeletons of people who were supposedly up to 4 meters tall – but no proof has ever been found of their existence and the supposed relics have mysteriously disappeared. Those giants are, in the end, deemed to be nothing more than a folklore tale.
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Who Are The Giants Of Sardinia?
The Giants of Sardinia are a group of statues that have been found in Monti Prama (or Mont’e Prama), nearby Cabras (in the Oristano province). They are huge sculptures, from 2 meters (6.5 feet) to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall, very finely decorated with geometric motives. They represent warriors, archers, and boxers – the same people represented in Nuragic bronze statues, which are however way tinier – and they are supposed to date back to the 13th – 9th century BC.
These statues are an extremely important relic from the past, as they are the only models that have been found on the whole island, and they might be an essential item to rewrite a part of the Sardinian pre-historic archeology.
In fact, since the Giants have been sculpted before and during the Nuragic times, they might open up the path to new theories which would challenge the current facts we know about the Nuragic people.
The Discovery Of Mont’e Prama Giants
The statues were found in Mont’e Prama, a countryside area nearby Cabras and its pond, which consists mostly of fields. It was, in fact, some farmers, in 1974, that unveiled a fragment of a statue while plowing their field: they immediately contacted the authorities, which in turn called some archeologists.
The excavation works brought to light 5178 pieces of various dimensions, which however were immediately stocked in the Cagliari Museum’s underground vault and forgotten for about 30 years.
In 2005, after receiving some funds, the universities of Cagliari and Sassari started cooperating to reassemble these statues, in a sort of puzzle game from millennia ago. What came after their strenuous work is a group of 38 sculptures representing 5 archers, 4 warriors, and 16 boxers. The statues were then placed in Cagliari Archeological Museum and in Cabras Civic
Museum until a new project to enlarge Cabras Museum and expose the totality of the sculptures there will be completed.
Where To See Mont’e Prama Giants
A part of the Giants of Sardinia is exposed in Cabras Giovanni Marongiu Museum, in a spectacular exhibit.
Giovanni Marongiu Museum is open daily from April to October, from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm; and Tuesday to Sunday from November to March, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is € 6.50 for adults; € 5 for over 65 and students up to 26 years old; € 3.50 for minors up to 17 years old.
Make sure to read my post A Curated Guide To Cabras.
Another part of the statues is exposed in Cagliari Archeological Museum.
The Museum of Archeology of Cagliari is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. .ickets are €9 full price, €4,50 discounted.
Check out my post The Best Museums In Sardinia.
Finally, one of the most unique places to learn about the history of the Mont’e Prama Giants would be the Mont’e Prama Archeological site itself, in Cabras. The site is still being excavated and researched, so it is only open to the public for special events and occasions (for example, I had the chance to visit during the Isola dei Giganti Festival). On those days, visitors are taken around on guided tours that last about one hour and which will go through the history of the discovery of the site and the main finds.
For enquiries, send an email to [email protected].
Giants’ Tombs In Sardinia
The Giants’ Tombs are ancient burial monuments, firstly built by pre-nuragic civilizations and then re-used by the Nuragic. These tombs are generally made with tall, huge rocks and they represent a bull’s head, if seen from above. They got the nickname of Giants’ Tombs because the locals used to think they were burial grounds for enormous people, maybe gods from another era, due to the imposing size of the sites.
Many legends have flourished around the Giants’ Tombs, including some supposed findings of 4-meters-tall (that’s more than 13 feet) skeletons, but until now, we don’t have any historical proof to find the bit of truth hidden in these exaggerated folk tales.
Below is a selection of the most important Giants’ Tombs in Sardinia.
Make sure to also read my posts The Most Interesting Archeological Sites In Sardinia and The Best Nuraghe In Sardinia.
Coddu Vecchju, Arzachena
Like every Giants’ Tomb, this monument is a collective burial ground for the people who supposedly inhabited the nearby area. The deceased were probably inhumated by removing a stone and lowering the bodies from above. Coddu Vecchju Tomb is part of a huge archeological complex you shouldn’t miss if you visit this part of Sardinia.
Read my post What To See And Do In Arzachena.
Madau is a complex of four tombs, very well-preserved, where the dead were buried together, as a common tradition in the Nuragic culture. Old legends say that this was the tomb of mythological heroes and that people used to sleep there to receive their “strength and advice”.
Head over to my post A Useful Guide To Fonni.
Despite it not being in excellent condition, Tamuli’s Complex is considered an important site for both the tomb’s shape – rare on the island and different from the usual ones – and for the Nuraghe nearby, a clear sign that the area was inhabited and the three tombs were well-known and used by the locals.
S’Ena e Thomes, Dorgali
Among the most beautiful examples of Giants’t Tombs in Sardinia there’s S’Ena e Thomes, in the municipality of Dorgali. The tomb measures over 10 meters (32.2 feet) in height and 7 tons in weight, and you will find it immersed in the countryside outside Dorgali, in a private land normally use for pastures.
Make sure to read my post A Short Guide To Dorgali.
The interest in the Giants of Sardinia has been sparked again very recently, since two new statues, representing boxers with a shield, have been found a few days ago (May 7th, 2022) in Mont’e Prama – which keeps giving out more and more relics, to prove that it was a huge and important necropolis back in the day. The Giants are just the most famous among the items found there; the tombs have kept safe skeletons, trinkets, and even Nuraghe scale models, until our modern days.